Le Pen party pledges to cut up to €3bn from EU budget

National Rally's Marine Le Pen with Jordan Bardella
National Rally's Marine Le Pen with Jordan Bardella - THOMAS PADILLA/AP

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally threatened to slash France’s payments to the European Union after the Commission moved to punish Paris for breaking the bloc’s fiscal rules.

Jordan Bardella, the hard-Right party’s president, told business leaders he would cut the EU budget payment by €2 to €3 billion (£1.7-2.5 billion) if National Rally won snap elections next month.

France is the second largest contributor to the EU’s budget and will pay €21.6bn of the €189.4bn total this year.

The European Commission said on Wednesday that France should be disciplined for running budget deficits in excess of EU limits, with deadlines for reducing the gaps to be set in November.

But Mr Bardella said on Thursday: “There is no reason why we should be asking everyone to cut spending but not ask that EU operating spending be cut too.

“We’re net contributors,” the eurosceptic Mr Bardella said, meaning France pays more into the EU Budget than it gets back from Brussels.

“The less we give to the EU, the more we can forward money to the real French economy.”

However, the EU Budget is agreed for seven-year periods, which will make it legally impossible to renege on the commitment.

Siegfried Mureşan, the lead MEP on the 2024 budget, told the Euractiv website: “Bardella’s statement reminds me of Brexit and the long and false claims made by those calling for a UK exit.

“There is no way for Bardella to amend it, and France has a legal obligation to pay its share.”

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, called surprise parliamentary elections after being trounced by National Rally in European elections on June 8.

If National Rally win an absolute majority in the July 7 vote, Mr Bardella is expected to be appointed prime minister and wrest control of France from the president’s party.

The nationalist party is leading in the polls with a newly formed alliance of Left-wing and environmentalist parties in second place and Mr Macron’s camp trailing.

National Rally and the Left-wing New Popular Front have both pledged to ditch Mr Macron’s unpopular pensions reforms and embark on a public spending spree, despite France’s deficit.

Marine Le Pen, addressing a campaign rally at Hénin-Beaumont in the Pas-de-Calais
Marine Le Pen, addressing a campaign rally at Hénin-Beaumont in the Pas-de-Calais - CHRISTIAN LIEWIG/CORBIS NEWS

French stocks and the euro tumbled after the announcement of the national election and investors remain nervous about the future.

Bruno Le Maire, the finance minister, told the business leaders’ event: “The budgetary margin for manoeuvre is zero.”

He described Mr Bardella’s policy proposals as “crazy” and repeated a Macron pledge to return the budget deficit to below 3 per cent of GDP.

Mr Bardella said a pledge to lower the retirement age from 64 to 60, after Mr Macron faced down months of street protests to raise it to that age, would apply to people who began work aged under 20.

His government would introduce a revised 2024 budget over the summer, he said, and measures would include cutting production taxes on companies.

He added: “I’ve understood that I need to reassure people.”

He pledged that, if in government, he would launch an audit of public finances to gauge his margin for manoeuvre.